There are a few DMZ (demilitarized zone) tours available in South Korea. My favorite is in Cheorwon in Gangwondo. I’ve been there five times. I haven’t been to Panmunjeom (that place in Lee Byung Hun’s movie JSA: Joint Security Area) since only guided tours offered by travel agencies are allowed there. It’s a little bit pricey at 70,000 won (more than US$70). Last May, my husband and I with my parents-in-law and my husband’s sister’s family went to visit Dorasan Station. It opened just a few days before we visited and is the northernmost station or the closest station to North Korea.
We drove from our apartment in Seoul to Imjingang Station (gang is the Korean word for river). There, we showed our ID’s and purchased DMZ tour tickets for 11,200 won each. We were provided large IDs to be worn during the tour. Near the station is an amusement park and a small museum. Behind the museum is the Bridge of Freedom.
From Imjingang Station, we took the train (1,400 won) to Dorasan Station. The soldiers had to check how many people are in the train before taking off. The ride was just about five minutes long.
Dorasan is evidently a new station. ISoldiers stood near the turnstile checking the ID’s. Outside the station are shuttle buses that will take the tourists around the area. There are some areas where people are forbidden to take pictures. And the law abiding person that I am followed that regulation. 🙂
We knew that we’re near the border when we saw the Gaeseong City toll gate. It was the capital of Goryo Dynasty. It used to be South Korea’s territory before the Korean War.
The first stop was Dora Jeonmangde or the Dora Observatory. Here you can rent binoculars (500 won) and see part of North Korea from afar. I remember seeing some lowrise buildings and farmers planting. My husband said the lowrise buildings are just for show, as the area is visible from the South.
From the observatory, we moved on to the 3rd Invasion Tunnel. There are a total of four tunnels that were dugged by North Koreans in the 1970s leading to North Korea. Apparently, they were planning to use them to attack South Korea. The tunnel is steep and there’s sort of an elevator that you can take to go down. It was like a simple and very slow roller coaster ride. We were given helmets before taking the elevator.
Outside the tunnel is a sculpture called “Unifying Earth.” The inscription reads “This piece of artwork expresses the people’s hope to realize peace and the reunification of the Korean peninsula. The arches over the two hemispheres represent the Seoul-Sinuiju railway that will extend into Europe. The divided sphere symbolizes a lasting cold war vestige – the divided the Korean peninsula. Statues surrounding the leaning halves are elements that work together to reunite the Korean peninsula.”
The last part of the tour is the “Tongil Maeul” or “Unification Village.” Here, you can buy North Korean agricultural products and souvenirs. I didn’t bother to take pictures as I was trying to pacify my tired son that time.
Anyway, a visit to South Korea isn’t complete without a visit to any of the DMZs. Like I’ve said, the Cheorwon tour is my favorite and you’ll know why in a coming post.